“Cain v. Abel: A Jewish Courtroom Drama” by Rabbi Dab Ornstein— We, the Jury

Ornstein, Dan Rabbi. “Cain v. Abel: A Jewish Courtroom Drama”, Jewish Publication Society, 2020.

We, the Jury

Amos Lassen

Rabbi Dan Ornstein gives us the chance to sit on the jury in  the trial of Cain v. Abel. The prosecution and defense attorneys (angels from Jewish legend) will call Cain, Abel, Sin, Adam, Eve, and God to the witness stand to present their perspectives on the world’s first murder.  We will also get testimony from great Jewish commentators throughout the ages  who will also offer contradictory testimony on Cain’s emotional, societal, and spiritual influences. As jurors, we must decide before meting out Cain’s punishment, if we have to consider his family history, psychological makeup, and the human impulse to sin.

I love this new approach to studying Torah mainly because it simply makes it relevant. Here we gain eclectic and gripping insights by Jewish commentators on the Cain and Abel story. The courtroom scenes are juxtaposed with the author’s commentary and this gives us new insights and introspection. By struggling with Cain’s actions, we also confront ourselves. We wonder if Cain is a symbol for all humanity what do we have to do so as not to become like him.

Rabbi Dan Ornstein includes a discussion and activity guide that promotes open dialogue “about human brokenness and healing, personal impulses, and societal responsibility.”
 Most of us know the story is written in bible so well that we can freely recite what it says. Yet rereading it here, it is very new and reads like it never has before. It comes to life by making it a human drama that we can each become a part of.  By bringing in the testimony and perspective of every participant, Rabbi Dan Ornstein gives us a new and riveting read and a chance to examine and expand our own humanity. The question of  “Am I my brother’s keeper?’” takes on new meaning and interpretations. Here is the chance for us to debatenthe human condition and how to think about “human agency and responsibility.

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